Creating Long Lasting Positive Change

I have always been wondering about the secret of a “Good Life” and the contributing factors.
The formula for happiness doesn’t seem to be success in different domains like more money, better grades, high reputation at your job, having children or a summer house in Spain. I have experienced it personally that feeling content did very seldom correlate with success. It can cause even a rebound effect when you start to worry about losing everything that you have worked for or not being able to perform in the same way or better, trying to achieve something impossible because you think that this is the key for happiness.

There are many examples of rich, famous, talented and admired people who struggle with severe mental health conditions. Psychologist Shawn Achor explains it that way: “If I work harder, I’ll be more successful. And if I’m more successful, than I’ll be happier. That undergirds most of our parenting and managing styles, the way that we motivate our behaviour.”
Numerous studies show that happy individuals are successful across multiple life domains, including marriage, friendship, income, work performance, and health. The reason is happy people frequently experience positive moods and these positive moods prompt them to be more likely to work actively toward new goals and build new resources. When people feel happy, they tend to feel confident, optimistic, and energetic, and others find them likeable and sociable.” (Review of 225 studies on happiness and success, Sonja Lyubomirsky, Prof. at the University of California).
Becoming positive in the present moment seems to be an effective formula for happiness. Shawn Achor’s summary of suggestions come from interventions like Meditation/Mindfulness-Based-Stress-Reduction and CBT.

Here is what you can do on your own to practice Positivity in your daily life (Achor):

  • Practising Gratitude (Emmons & McCullough, 2003): Write down three new things for 21 days you are grateful for.
  • Journaling (Slatcher 6 Pennebaker, 2006): Write down any positive experience you’ve had over the past 24 h and allow your brain to relive it
  • Exercise/Activity plan (Babyak et al.; 2000): Physical activity promotes a better mood
  • Meditation (Dweck, 2007): Focusing on one task, engaging with the present moment and disengaging from disturbing thoughts
  • Random Act of Kindness (Lyubomirsky, 2005)

Genetic predispositions and environmental factors play a significant role in how we perceive and act on different life events (Watch the docu: Three Identical Strangers, 2018). It will depend, in some cases, even more on the willpower and practice to create Lasting Positive Change. So unfortunately there is no quick fix.

But once you experience a sense of fulfilment after practising the exercises above, you will probably decide to carry on and notice gratification in the majority of your actions. The more you practice, the less likely you are to engage with negative thoughts about yourself, the past and the future. Symptoms of anxiety and depressions will decrease while the level of positivity in the present increases. Achor calls it the “Happiness Advantage”: Your intelligence rises, your creativity increases, you energy level rise. The formula for happiness is about rewiring your brain to be POSITIVE by taking actions in the right direction. 

“Sometimes, when we lose ourselves in fear and despair, in routine and constancy… in hopelessness and tragedy, we can thank God for Bavarian sugar cookies. And fortunately, when there aren’t any cookies, we can still find reassurance in a familiar hand on our skin… or a kind of loving gesture… or a subtle encouragement… or a loving embrace… or an offer of comfort.“ (Stranger than Fiction, Comedy, 2006)

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Published on 2020/04/20

Posted in: Good life, Happiness, Mental Health,